A Healthy Alternative to Juice


Winter is coming. And in my opinion, and my kids agree, there is something so soothing and warming about having a cup of tea. Many adults already know this, but do you pour a cup for your kids? There are many options for caffeine-free herbal teas that kids will delight in (just see some examples above) and they are SUGAR-FREE! Kids already consume far above the recommended daily allowance of sugar, here is another way to reduce their intake of sugar. You can serve it without adding anything extra but if your child is used to sweeter tasting beverages you may want to add a teaspoon of raw honey to sweeten the tea a bit. You can wean them off the honey by slowly adding less and less as they adjust their taste buds, but raw honey is also beneficial. Another option would be to sweeten the tea with stevia if needed. In our house, we found the trick to the perfect cup of tea was to steep the tea bag in hot water and then after a few minutes add a few ice cubes so the kids don’t have to wait so long for the tea to cool down. 

Another benefit to drinking tea is that you imbibe extra minerals and antioxidants from the tea. Not in the mood for a hot cuppa? You can steep these herbal teas extra strong and chill them in the fridge to serve over ice on a warm day. For a bit of extra zip add some fresh squeezed lemon. And for the women and men wanting to boost the effects of fat burning hormones…drink some green tea with lemon (studies show you need to drink about 2.5 cups a day or more). 

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Kale Chips You Will Want to Eat!

 
Ah…beautiful kale. I know you are so healthy for my kids but aside from hiding you in smoothies, I can’t figure out how to get my kids to eat you!

(Spend 2 minutes on Pinterest for ideas). Then 20 minutes later…

O.M.G.  Today I made kale chips that were a massive success. Up until now I’ve been too lazy to try and make kale chips and now I’m shaking my head, why did I wait so long? Why was I so afraid? They are so easy! How is it that I haven’t done this yet?!? (I think again to myself.)

  

Here’s how easy it is…

Preheat oven to 350F. While waiting for oven to heat up, wash and dry kale (I used a salad spinner). Break up kale into “chip size” pieces or slightly bigger (I think the bigger the better for the way they bake) and spread over parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Don’t overcrowd. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and perhaps a few seasonings like garlic salt or paprika or chili powder or cumin? Bake for 10-15 min and enjoy. Warning: this may become an addictive habit. 

I think I may have eaten half of a bunch of kale without even realizing it. This may actually prove to be quite an expensive, albeit healthy, habit! 

Note: I’m still trying to figure out how I would store these if we didn’t eat a whole batch at once, if you put them in a ziplock they seem to get soggy. Any ideas?

Fast Food – The Lunchroom Chronicles

  

Today I made a surprise visit to my 1st grader at his shool during lunchtime. While he was so happy to see me and his little brother, I kept thinking about how little time the students get to eat. Lunch is set at 20 minutes, no more. And they’ve been arriving late to lunch (they go as a class) according to my son. At first I was dubious as to his truthfulness and perhaps thought that the reason half his lunch was coming home was because he was anxious to get to recess, but today I witnessed first hand how it went down.

I arrived at the front desk check in at 12:41 thinking that my 2 year old and I had better hurry since lunch starts promptly at 12:40pm. We started briskly walking towards the 1st grade class, which is on the way to the lunchroom, but then we saw that the class was still en route walking together to the lunchroom. Hmmmmm. We arrived at the lunchroom at 12:46. The kids now have 14 minutes left in their lunchtime. This is one reason I pack a lunch from home, to gain more eating time. I’m pretty sure that by the time the kids without home packed lunches sat down (after waiting to buy lunch) they had 10 minutes or less to eat. Gulp.
I understand that there may be reasons for why kids would only have 20 minutes to eat. For one, our lunchroom is incredibly small and so each grade has a separate lunchtime (we live in Minnesota – no eating outside for most of the year!). But my worries are hovering around the following questions. What are we teaching our children in regards to healthy eating habits? A school is place for learning, and not just academics. We could use the lunchroom to teach healthy eating habits (chewing your food properly, not talking with a mouth full of pizza, sitting and talking with friends leisurely, etc) instead of encouraging scarfing down food, not eating to satiety because lunch is over abruptly, etc). When I was in nutrition school, I remember learning the Japanese phrase, “hara hachi bu” (forgive my spelling!) which means “eat until two thirds full”. The Japanese were wise to know before science that it takes a bit of time for the stomach to tell the brain that satiety has been reached. But you can’t learn that if you are cramming food down your gullet just to get enough in there before lunch is over! The kids I saw weren’t even sitting for one minute after finishing eating. They were dismissed to the playground, rapidly packed up their half eaten food and raced off. Hmmmm, could these bad eating habits be related to portion control issues as adults? And what about digestion? So yeah, they managed to throw some food in their stomachs before running out to the playground, but your stomach can’t digest food on the go!  With the onslaught of stress related chronic disease in adulthood (and childhood), hasn’t anyone thought, “well, let’s change these disastrous health habits while we still can?” I see a connection here, maybe not the only answer to the problem, but definitely part of it.

What is your child’s lunchroom experience like? Do you agree that the school lunchroom is a learning opportunity? What eating habits do you want your child to acquire before adulthood?

I feel like there will be more chapters to The Lunchroom Chronicles…

Broccoli Pancakes

I am SO sick of my 2 year old (almost 3 year old) NOT eating veggies! His brother eats anything raw, and some cooked veggies but this little guy is a different story. I know I’m exaggerating, he does eat some veggies…smoothies, smoothies, Popsicles….wait, maybe he doesn’t eat that much? Well, we try, and I think we are doing OK, but just “OK” in my mind isn’t going to cut it. I mean, I KNOW the importance of veggies, both long term and short term. How intake of antioxidants and immune boosting nutrients can help him, how calcium can affect long term bone health, how….well, I could go on and on. This is the age old battle with toddlers, is it not?

Tonight I decided to take a stand. I WILL figure out a way that he LIKES to eat veggies. The force was strong with me tonight. And succeed I did. With the 2 year old. The 6 year old proceeded to critique the experimental broccoli pancakes like he was one of the “super tasters” (He’s NOT).

This was how it all unfolded.


I looked in my fridge and had lots of leftovers. These were the main veggies (plus the carrots which were getting old). I was wondering what to do with them….so I decided pancakes were a good idea.


I put it all in a bowl and mixed it together.


Then I pan fried it. Who DOESN’T like pan fried anything?!?


Finished product. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It is actually really amazing. But since my 6 year old “complained” I added some shredded cheese to batch 2….AH-MAZING. These will be in their lunches tomorrow.

 

Broccoli Pancakes

makes about 8 pancakes


Ingredients

1 cup finely chopped cooked broccoli

1 cup shredded raw carrot

4 eggs, whisked

4 Tbsp coconut flour (I’m pretty sure you could do any flour)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup rice (pre-cooked), the one pictured here was leftover cilantro lime rice from Make Your Own Burrito Bowls

Dash of cardamom (because I can)

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut oil for pan frying

(1/2 – 1 cup shredded cheese is optional)
Mix everything together, smack it into balls and squish in the pan to form pancakes. Fry on low-medium for 4-5 minutes each side.

That’s it. Now you and your kids are eating veggies.
This recipe is gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free if you omit the cheese!=

Serve cold in lunches or freeze and toast when you want some more!

Leftovers for Lunch

  

Toddler lunch, preschool lunch, school lunch or even for adults, this lunch is good for the whole family, especially people with food allergies or sensitivities as it is peanut free, nut free, gluten free and dairy free. 

Today we are using our Thermos Funtainer to keep honey sesame chicken with brown rice and broccoli warm. Since this is for my 2 year old I cut up all the food into small bite size pieces. The other containers pictured are Kids Konserve and have raspberries and coconut chips (chocolate and plain). You may want to check that your small child can open these containers by themselves before sending them to school, teachers are often very busy at lunch time and may not have time to open every child’s lunch stuff. 

1st grade! 

1 for #firstgrade! I can’t believe how fast we went from having a Kindergartener to having a first grader! Here’s his first day of school lunch…

Open faced sandwich on a potato bun with melted cheese and bacon (pre cooked over the weekend to speed up lunch prep). Pluot, carrots (with bento eyes- found on Amazon) and bell pepper “teeth” and cucumber eyes, #waybettersnacks sweet potato chips and gummy stars from #wholefoodsmarket. 

  

Sprouted and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds


Pumpkin Seeds  – also known as pepitas – are one of those things that I always forget about, suddenly remember how healthy they are and “why don’t I have any on hand?”, prepare them, and then can’t believe I forgot how amazing they taste! 

Pumpkins seeds are touted for containing high amounts of zinc and magnesium as well as vitamin E and protein. What does this mean for you and your kids? Zinc is great for many things, but heading into the school year I’m singing its praises as an immune booster. Magnesium is well known for its calming effects…your child’s teacher will praise you for this, and protein keeps bellies full longer so it makes a great snack.

How do you make them so scrumptious that your kids will not be able to say no to this nutritious snack? The key to unlocking the taste and health benefits is in the soaking so don’t skip this step…

Step 1: Soak seeds overnight (but no more than 24 hours) in room temperature water with a teaspoon of salt.

Step 2: Rins and pat dry. Combine with choice of oil and seasoning in a bowl. (See below for some suggestions). Coat seeds in mixture.

Step 3: Spread seeds one layer deep on parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Step 4: Bake at 250-275 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes or until seeds start to turn a golden brown. Stir seeds every 10-15 minutes.*

Enjoy as a snack, over salads or cereal, or throw them in a lunchbox!


A Few Seasoning Combination Ideas (based on 1 cup of seeds used):

1) Cinnamon and Brown Sugar: 1 Tbsp butter (melted) + 1 tsp brown sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon + dash of sea salt

2) Sea Salt and Pepper: 1 Tbsp coconut oil (melted) + 1 tsp sea salt + 1/2 tsp pepper

3) Chili & Lime: zest of 1 lime + juice of 1/2 a lime + up to 1 Tbsp chili powder (depends on how spicy you want it) + 1/4 tsp sea salt

* This step is even better when done at a lower heat to preserve the nutrients – at 165/170 degrees – but many ovens don’t go this low anymore. Some studies say roasting above 200 degrees and more than 20min will damage some of the delicate oils in pumpkin seeds but on the other hand you won’t get the amazing nutty flavor. I find it hard to get the seeds to dry up and taste good in my (less than ideal) oven at temps lower than 200 degrees and less than 20 minutes.  

The Adult Lunchbox Experiments


My first “adult” lunch post! Granted, most of my lunchbox posts can be applied to adult lunches, but this one is slightly more mature. More “adult” lunchbox posts to follow will include food that might appeal to a more sophisticated palate or contain food that would be difficult for a toddler or young child to handle. Also, I would never send a young child to school with a Pyrex dish!  I’m excited to get some BPA-free plastic bento boxes in the mail tomorrow to play around with as well.  

Pictured here is a sprouted whole wheat tortilla with cream cheese, salami, pea shoots and tomatoes. Roasted pumpkin seeds (find the recipe for soaking and roasting your own here), caprese bites, cucumber, carrots, and green apple. #therealisticlunchbox #theadultlunchbox #nutfree 

How to Build a Nutritiously Balanced (and fun) Lunchbox

  
Here is what lunch prep looks like at my house.

Even though the little guy (age 2) doesn’t have school today, I’m still prepping his lunch at 7am because I have all the stuff out anyways. It saves time later and we bring it out and about with us so that after the gym we may just sit down at the grocery store and have our lunch there.  It gives me a lot more freedom with my mornings out because I feel like we can just stop whenever (and wherever) and have lunch instead of racing home. 

Someone asked about how my thought process works for making lunches….so here we go.  First I decide on the main protein source. Will it be some meat in a sandwich or tortilla wrap? Perhaps just cut up meat and cheese for crackers? Have we been eating a lot of meat recently and therefore I should switch it up for a hard boiled egg or perhaps a nut source of protein? After I decide on the star of the show (protein is so important for kids!) I next think to what will be the fruit and vegetable and as far as this goes my belief is the more the merrier. This is usually the artistic fun part because I always have several options in the fridge (unless it’s been more than a week since I’ve been to the store!) anything else on the lunchbox is all extra. 

Protein Ideas for the Lunchbox:

  • Lunch meat (in a sandwich or wrap or just plain)
  • Smoked salmon (in a sandwich or wrap or on the side – toddlers seem to like this!
  • Greek yogurt
  • Any type of nut butter (including sun butter which is OK for a nut-free setting)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Hard boiled eggs or egg salad sandwich
  • Tuna or salmon salad (in a sandwich or by itself or served with crackers)
  • Cheese (on a sandwich or in a wrap or by itself with crackers)
  • Hummus, roasted chickpeas or anything else with legumes
  • A bar or muffin either store bought or homemade that is high in protein (check out the recipe here for scrumptious banana nut muffins that have 9g of protein per muffin!)

For more fun ideas to make your child’s (or your own) lunchbox nutritious and pleasing to the eye visit my Instagram account @therealisticlunchbox. Here are a few examples…

   
    
 

New Green Smoothie Recipe

  

I created  a new green smoothie recipe that I think is a winner, so of course I have to tell the world!


Ingredients

1 kiwi 

1 lemon (peel off) 

1 Apple (cored) 

12oz water 

about 2 cups loose spinach 

1 leaf kale 

  

Blend together in a Vitamix or other powerful blender.

Resut is 1 green smoothie packed full of Vit C (yes please I will take a dose of natural anti-inflammatory), folate (well sure I’d like to lower my risk for cardiovascular disease), antioxidants (let’s fight those pre-cancer cells), and minerals like calcium (🎶 dem bones dem bones…). It has a hint of a “green” taste but the sour of the lemon cuts it and the kiwi and apple add a hint of sweetness that is not too overpowering. I don’t like thick, sweet smoothies and this is almost more like a juice, but with the benefit of the fiber found naturally in the fruit and veggies. Raw fruits and vegetables provide your body with active enzymes and vitamins that are often destroyed by heat, so drink to your health!